Box set retrospectives usually fall into two categories. First, there are the “hits and more” packages like the Pretenders’ recent “Pirate Radio,” designed for casual fans with a one-stop shopping bent.
Completist sets – Bruce Springsteen’s “Tracks” and Nirvana’s “Lights Out” come to mind – satisfy the unquenchable appetites of serious fans. They’re usually packed with alternate takes, demo versions and unreleased tracks, sometimes of dubious quality.
Bruce Hornsby’s four CD, one DVD “Intersections (1985-2005)” straddles both, but ultimately plays to the hardcore audience. Well-known songs like “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain” are all represented, but mostly as live tracks.
As for rarities, “Intersections” has plenty. “The End of the Innocence,” co-written with Don Henley, appears for the first time on any Hornsby record. The Grateful Dead’s “Jack Straw” and a faithful remake of Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water,” previously available on anthologies, are here as well.
The DVD is filled with stellar moments from Hornsby’s many collaborations. Chaka Kahn’s ballad, “Love Me Still,” is particularly gorgeous, as is “The Tide Will Rise,” a breathtaking live track with Pat Metheny’s guitar work and a perfect Bonnie Raitt harmony. Also included is a selection from his part-time band the Grateful Dead (“They Love Each Other”), and a bluegrass version of “The Valley Road,” a song that appears an astonishing four times on “Intersections” – twice on the CD and DVD.
A telling example of the iconoclastic pianist’s view of his own career: “Comfortably Numb,” a song he didn’t write and never recorded, appears TWICE on “Intersections.” On the CD, it’s part of a medley with “Fortunate Son,” and on the DVD it’s a live take with Roger Waters. Hornsby explains in the liner notes that he wrote “Fortunate Son” striving for the emotional intensity of the Pink Floyd song.
Given the many multiple entries on the box set, it’s a shame that the meandering “Night on the Town” was included instead of the muscular take contained on “Bruce Hornsby and the Range: A Night on the Town,” a 1990 home video release. Also puzzling is the inclusion of the studio version of “Rainbow’s Cadillac,” when another version, featuring torrid slide guitar work from Bonnie Raitt, was likely available from the “Soundstage” archives.
Still, apart from a few indulgences, notably a long-winded instrumental cycle on disk two and an blowsy solo version of “Look Out Any Window,” “Intersections” is a solid retrospective of an artist who’s made his own rules throughout a 20-year career.
(Three out of Five Stars)